Dolphins Fall Apart in Denver

Week 11 looked more like week 1 for the Miami Dolphins. As soon as you thought the team had turned the corner and will not fall victim in games they are supposed to win, they lay an egg. Sunday’s matchup against the 3-6 Denver Broncos started the way the past few games have for Miami. Xavien Howard intercepted Drew Lock on Denver’s first possession, leading to a DeVante Parker touchdown. The Dolphins were 5-0 this season when scoring the game’s first touchdown but that would be the last time the Dolphins would find the end zone against a Denver defense that had been allowing 36 points per game over the last four contests.

Starting quarterback Tua Tagovailoa struggled mightily against Denver’s defensive line and so did the entire offensive front. The offensive line of Miami allowed 6 sacks and ultimately led to the benching of Tua in the fourth quarter. Tua finished the day 11-20 for 83 yards and one touchdown and admitted he held the ball too long. The six sacks awarded to Denver on Sunday were a combination of poor quarterback play and poor protection. From the first snap of the game, Tua seemed off. He overthrew Jakeem Grant twice on deep passes and missed a wide-open DeVante Parker streaking across the field for a first down. Tua fought back with a 6-8 drive that led to a Jason Sanders 41- yard field goal to tie the game.

Not only was the offense atrocious for three and a half quarters, but the defense also did not do the team any favors. Miami allowed 459 yards of offense with 189 of them coming on the ground. Drew Lock threw for 270 yards and was not touched the entire game. The Dolphins pass rush was non-existent and did not force a turnover-prone Lock to make any mistakes. The Denver offense seemed to always have favorable downs and distance and was able to move the ball at will.

To continue on the train of bad performances, we can add the entire Miami Dolphins, coaching staff. Vic Fangio and the Denver Broncos out-coached Miami in every facet of the game. Denver’s defense was able to disrupt any game plan the Dolphins had on offense and made life uncomfortable for rookie Tua Tagovailoa. The offense exposed a weak run defense from Miami and dictated the game on the ground. On special teams, Denver never allowed Jakeem Grant the opportunity to return a kick of any kind. Each kick off resulted in a touchback and each punt pinned Grant on the sideline. Miami was not able to match the intensity or game planning from Denver, which is why Miami’s 5-game win streak ended.

Sunday’s loss was a huge loss for this team in many ways. With a win Sunday, Miami would have been tied for first place in the AFC East with the Buffalo Bills. Instead, even on their bye-week, the Buffalo Bills were victorious. Tua Tagovailoa took a step back and was benched for his performance. Coach Brian Flores claimed he inserted Ryan Fitzpatrick into the game to give the team a spark. Although that happened and the Dolphins were a few plays away from tying the game, Flores did not give Tagovailoa a chance to experience high-end pressure in a close game.

Flores has been known for playing whoever gives the team the best chance to win, and that held true on Sunday. In a post-game press conference, Flores stated that Tua would remain the team’s starter going forward. Sunday’s decision was strictly to win a very important game for the team and not to cause a quarterback controversy. Tua is a very confident player and he will only thrive off of this result.

Not only did the Dolphins damage their AFC East title hopes, but their Wild Card chances were also affected by wins by the Cleveland Browns and Indianapolis Colts. The Dolphins were due for a loss by the way they have been playing recently. Against the Rams, the Dolphins were out-gained by 326 yards. In week 9, the Dolphins allowed 178 yards rushing and out-gained by 130 yards. Finally, last week against the Chargers, the Dolphins took their foot off the gas and were lucky to be playing a team of LA’s stature. The way Miami has been playing is not sustainable and something needs to change.

This team is in desperate need of a #1 running back and receivers that can create separation. The offensive play calling needs to be better and allow Tua to let it loose. Miami’s offense consists of short, quick passes and short runs. The quick passing game might be a product of a poor offensive line, but Miami’s line has been respectable this season. It is time to take more deep shots and utilize screen passes. Luckily for Miami, their next two opponents are the 0-10 New York Jets and the 2-7-1 Cincinnati Bengals who just lost QB Joe Burrow to an ACL tear.

Even though no one expected Miami to be 6-4 through ten games, Sunday’s loss just felt like a typical loss Dolphins fans have endured for two decades. With a chance to be tied for the AFC East and to continue to make statement wins, the Dolphins folded. Miami has been great in “trap games” so far this season, which is why so many people thought this team was different. Many assumed the Dolphins would be riding an 8-game win streak into the Kansas City game but overlooked the Denver Broncos. Miami must not make that mistake again in weeks 12 and 13. Sunday’s loss will be a huge wake-up call for the team and hopefully refocus them going forward. Tua will need to play better and prove he is the man for the job. Not only is next week another opportunity to get back on track, but the Dolphins will also be able to get to 7-4 and back in the playoff mix after the hole they dug in week 11.